Sunday, 24 March 2013

Kelly, Burns & Devlin

The names of George Kelly, Alf Burns & Eddie Devlin are firmly entrenched in the Liverpool Underworld of the late 1940`s & early 50`s, mainly due to the long held belief that all had been fitted up all the way to the gallows by none other than Bert Balmer, a leading Liverpool detective.  The Kelly case centred around the robbery and murder of two people at the Cameo Cinema in Liverpool in 1949.  At the time it was the biggest manhunt in Britain.  A suspect emerged, George Kelly, and he was put on trial along with his alleged co-conspirator Charlie Connolly.  The first trial ended in a mis-trial being called, and a new trial ordered.  What set the rot in was hat Connolly pleaded guilty to robbery and avoided a Capital charge.  Kelly went on trial a second time, and was convicted and condemned.  It was widely believed that if Connolly pleaded guilty, then they HAD to be guilty.  Kelly was hanged at Walton Prison in 1950.  His defence barrister was a young Rose Heilbron, who went on to become the first female high court judge.  She had an up hill battle in Kelly`s appeal as she was up against Lord Goddard, the Lord Chief Justice who NEVER granted a reprieve to a condemned person.

    A campaign ran from then until 2003 when it was decided to quash the conviction of Kelly as unsafe due to the actions of Balmer, a cop with a notorious reputation for framing people.  Kelly was exhumed from the grounds of Walton prison and reburied in church grounds.  Two books were writen about the case, one by Barry Shortall, the other by George Skelly, the youngest brother of the man Kelly was drinking with when the murders took place.  It emerged that the first time Connolly met Kelly was when he stood beside him in the dock.  He pleaded guilty to a lesser charge because he saw the way that Kelly was being fitted up and did not want to chance a death sentence.  He only came into the case when a prosecution witness put his name up as being involved.

    What is generally accepted that what happened is that the actual killer of Leonard Thomas & JB Catterall got clean away with double murder.  His accomplices were believed to be Jimmy Northam, a small time thief from Birkenhead, and a lookout, a teenage prostitute, Jackie Dickson.  Both were prosecution witnesses, allegedly coached in their evidence by Balmer.   Balmer did have a grudge against Kelly, as he was a known woman beater, and Balmer allegedly had a thing about Kelly`s girlfriend.  Kelly was also a part-time informer for Balmer.  However, nobody deserves to be fitted up all the way to the gallows.

    Two years after the Kelly execution, two other young villains found themselves facing Capital charges for the murder of Beatrice Rimmer.  Both were convicted and hanged, despite their alibi that they were breaking into a warehouse in Manchester at the time Mrs Rimmer was murdered.  In this case, Balmer again used people allegedly involved in the actual murder, to get Burns & Devlin.  George Skelly is researching thoroughly, this case for a book.  What must never be forgotten is that in these two cases, three people were murdered by thugs.  In the Kelly case, he has never been officially identified, in the Burns/Devlin case, it MAY well have been the prosecution witnesses.   Legendary Liverpool Lawyer Rex Makin did not like Balmer at all, saying that he did not rely on evidence, and fitted up numerous people.